Tag Archives: Darren Sproles

Chip Kelly, Power, and the Trend of Increasing Expectations

The two-year anniversary of Chip Kelly’s hiring in Philadelphia is 13 days away.

For an hour or two yesterday afternoon, there was some fear that January 16 could arrive with the innovative Eagles coach elsewhere, fed up with dysfunction in the Eagles front office and friction with now former general manager Howie Roseman.

Thankfully everyone across the Delaware Valley can take a nice, deep breath.

The Eagles in their tweet used the verb “elevated” to describe Roseman’s new role. Perhaps he will get a new coffee machine in his office, a bigger desk, a shiny new nameplate, and a higher salary, but he lost control of the one thing he always aspired to do — Be an NFL GM.

Kelly wrestled it away from him, and as the coach has done so many times in his brief but eventful two years, once again raised expectations for himself and the team he coaches and now runs completely.

More than fast-paced offenses or sport science techniques, quickly raising expectations has been the overarching theme of Kelly’s rookie and sophomore NFL seasons.

For as pumped as I was when Kelly was hired, a lot of folks might be surprised to learn that I envisioned a scenario where he might not make the playoffs until Year 3. As I wrote a week ago, Andy Reid left his roster in absolute shambles, and Kelly was tasked with cleaning up a mess on the fly.

I predicted the Eagles would go 7-9 or 8-8 in 2013, a very respectable improvement from 4-12 under a first year coach. I assumed they would improve by another game or two this past season, and then really make their big move in 2015.

The idea that they could immediately go from a 4-12 punching bag to a 10-6 playoff team was farfetched to say the least, and no other 2013 coaching candidate would have been able to do it, including Bruce Arians, who like Kelly has had back-to-back double digit win seasons in Arizona but also only one playoff appearance due to a deep NFC.

It happened though, of course, in another example of Kelly raising the bar faster than even most of his biggest believers could have anticipated.

When he opted for a flawed but experienced Michael Vick over a — at the time — unproven Nick Foles, expectations were immediately raised with the idea that maybe the Eagles could compete in a wide open NFC East.

When Kelly unveiled his offense to a national audience on September 9, 2013 with Vick running it flawlessly en route to a 33-27 win over the defending NFC East champion Redskins, expectations were raised again.

The following week, some reporters who had covered him at Oregon claimed he would take the league by storm and win 11 or 12 games in his first season.

They were a game off, but when Vick inevitably suffered an injury in the fifth game of the season and folks realized that Foles could play, expectations quickly shot up again.

Nothing may have increased expectations more than the division title in Year 1 though. While still a couple rungs below the Seahawks, the Eagles were tossed around as a darkhorse Super Bowl candidate this past summer, and for three months, that looked pretty spot on.

The 23-point Thanksgiving victory in Dallas raised hope even more.

Brief setbacks sometimes followed the raised optimism though. The three game losing streak in 2013 after the opening victory, the back-to-back home losses to the Cowboys and Giants last October that produced a total of three offensive points, and of course, the mini collapse this past December.

All of those slight bumps were quickly countered though, and that is what Kelly did again yesterday.

There is no more ambiguity as to who has final say on certain personnel matters. We thought we knew before, but there is no doubt now.

If the Eagles fleece another team in a trade and acquire a player the caliber of Darren Sproles or Cody Parkey, Kelly gets all the credit. If the Eagles draft another version of Marcus Smith, who cannot play, in the first round, Kelly shoulders the blame.

We know Kelly can coach after consecutive 10-win seasons. We are pretty confident he can evaluate talent based on his four years at Oregon. We will soon find out whether or not he can draft.

During his tenure so far, the Eagles have had one really good draft, which played a large role in their quick turnaround, and one bad draft, which hindered them from making more progress in Year 2.

Let’s hone in on the 2014 draft and the Smith pick for a second. No one knows who had final say on that inexplicable decision, but yesterday’s reshuffling gives me more belief that it was Roseman who made the final call there.

For as much as Kelly wanted to have his best players on the field last Sunday to win, I find it odd that he wouldn’t allow Smith to see the field a little bit if he was planning on walking into Jeffrey Lurie’s office demanding more power against one of the owner’s closest allies and had to hold himself accountable for a first round rookie gone wrong.

More than likely, Roseman, who was decent at his job but also made his share of mistakes, made the pick and Kelly realized it couldn’t happen again if the Eagles were going to take the next step from a good team to a great team.

This April, it is Kelly’s show to run. Time will tell whether or not that is a good thing, but expectations will only grow.

Be it a free agent splash, releasing a productive veteran player, mortgaging future draft picks to move up high enough to select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, or something else, the momentum will not stop.

Whether he will acknowledge it or not, raising expectations is what Kelly has always done — at New Hampshire as an offensive coordinator, at Oregon as first an offensive coordinator and then a head coach, and at Philadelphia as first a head coach and now in charge of player personnel decisions.

With great power comes great responsibility — and greater expectations.

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That Sucked: Eagles-Cowboys Haiku

The opening kickoff was fumbled, and with it slowly went the Eagles grip on the NFC East — for now at least.

You all watched the game. Mark Sanchez was bad. The secondary was worse.

For much of the night, the Eagles looked unprepared as Chip Kelly and Billy Davis seemed a step behind Jason Garrett. It’s hard to win against a 9-4 when you turn the ball over four times.

I quite honestly am exhausted and not in the mood to spend a ton of time talking about it, preferring to look ahead at some of the scenarios and way the Eagles can get help to the playoffs.

Let’s hit the haiku and hope tonight wasn’t the final game at the Linc this season.

Dez Bryant goes wild

Secondary needs rebuilt

Save us Andrew Luck

 

Five Numbers I Hope to See in the Box Score When Eagles-Cowboys Concludes

If you read this post and suddenly think “hey this sounds kinda familiar,” that’s because it most likely will be. On Thanksgiving, the Eagles had a perfect gameplan and executed nearly perfectly in their 23-point beatdown of the Cowboys in Dallas.

We hit on two of our five numbers that day and came extremely close on two more as the birds embarrassed the Cowboys in front of a national audience.

Tonight they will try for a repeat with control of the NFC East one again up for grabs and the stakes even higher this time with only three regular season games remaining.

The plan will be similar: Force the Cowboys to be one-dimensional and set the edge against DeMarco Murray while getting LeSean McCoy going on offense and mixing in high percentage throws for Mark Sanchez.

Whether or not the Cowboys can adjust remains to be seen. Conventional wisdom says it will not be quite as easy for the Eagles tonight, but if it is, the box score could look somewhat similar to two and a half weeks ago.

Let’s hit the five numbers that I believe could key an Eagles victory and hope to see around midnight tonight.

  1. Less than 65 rushing yards for DeMarco Murray — Beating the Cowboys starts with beating DeMarco Murray, and the Eagles have been one of the most successful teams at beating the Cowboys recently because of their ability to beat DeMarco Murray. That was a weird sentence, wasn’t it? In his last 17 games, Murray has been held below 75 yards twice — In Week 17 against the Eagles last year (48) and on Thanksgiving (73). Tonight, I’m setting the bar at below 65. Do it, and we’ll be celebrating come midnight.
  2. Tony Romo sacked three or more times — This one is also quite simple. When sacked three or more times this season, Romo is 1-3. When dropped behind the line of scrimmage two times or less, he is 8-0. You hearing this Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, and Vinny Curry? Let’s get after it.
  3. Mark Sanchez completing at least 60 percent of his passes — In the first Eagles Cowboys game, Sanchez completed an insane 69 percent of his passes. Overall, he is 3-0 with the Eagles when surpassing the 60-percent benchmark and 1-2 when he is below that. Get there tonight, and the offense should be moving just fine.
  4. LeSean McCoy averaging more than four yards per carry — Another trendy statistic. In games where McCoy averages more than four yards per carry, the Eagles are 5-0 this season. In games where he does not, they are 4-4. McCoy had his best game of the season on Thanksgiving with a season high 159 yards. Do it again, Shady.
  5. Jordan Matthews with at least 80 receiving yards — Matthews, like the rest of the Eagles offense, was a little quiet against Seattle last Sunday, but the rookie had a huge 27-yard touchdown reception from Sanchez in the first Cowboys game, and the middle of the field should once again be open. Sanchez loves looking Matthews’ way, and he should have every opportunity to have a big showing tonight.

As honorable mentions, I expect my dude Zach Ertz and Darren Sproles to make a few key plays tonight. So there you have it, folks. We got 65, three, 60, four, 80, and hopefully a huge home win that leaves us playing for a second consecutive NFC East title next week.

Take it away, Mr. G and Chip.

Fist Pump GIF

Five Numbers I Hope to See in the Box Score when Eagles-Seahawks Concludes

Before the season, I predicted that the Eagles would head into today’s game with a 9-3 record and a 6-0 mark at home. And then I picked them to lose to the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks, thinking Pete Carroll’s defense would be too much for them.

Well, sure enough, the Eagles enter this highly anticipated NFC showdown at 9-3 and undefeated at home, and the more I look at the matchup, the more I think they’re going to improve to 10-3 and 7-0 at home.

Even after holding both the Cardinals and 49ers to three points in back-to-back weeks, the Seahawks just don’t scare me that much away from CenturyLink Field. The Eagles have been lights out at the Linc this season, and I expect that to continue today.

Let’s hit the five numbers that I believe could help make it happen and hope to see in the box score as this one concludes:

  1. Less than 70 rushing yards for Marshawn Lynch — The Seahawks essentially run their offense through two players, Russell Wilson and Lynch. With Golden Tate in Detroit and Percy Harvin exiled to the Jets, that’s it. Contain them, and you win the game. Seattle is 3-3 this season in games where Lynch is held below 70 yards. They are 5-1 when he eclipses that mark. After holding the NFL’s leading rusher DeMarco Murray to a season low 73 yards on Thanksgiving, the Eagles front seven should be ready to go.
  2. At least one sack for Fletcher Cox — The third-year defensive end has a sack in three of his last four contests and had his formal coming out party in front of a national audience on Turkey Day with two tackles for loss to go with the sack. It really seems like Cox is coming into his own after battling consistency issues early on in his career. Dropping Russell Wilson one or more times today would be a great way to show that.
  3. Mark Sanchez completing at least 63 percent of his passes — After dealing with some accuracy issues and only completing 56.7 percent of his attempts against the Panthers and Seahawks, Sanchez has been on point over the past two contests going 50-for-72, equating to 69.4 percent. I don’t expect that today against the Seahawks secondary, but staying above the 60 percent mark will be key in keeping the offense moving in perhaps his toughest challenge to date.
  4. Darren Sproles returning a punt at least 20 yards — If the Eagles have a distinct advantage in one area today, it is special teams. I’m expecting an impact play from either Sproles or Huff Daddy, and ideally there will be way more Seahawks punts than Seahawks kickoffs.
  5. LeSean McCoy averaging more than four yards per carry — Reports of McCoy’s demise were greatly exaggerated. The Eagles Pro Bowl running back has looked electric over his past two games, but the Titans and Cowboys front seven is no Seahawks. Running room will be tougher to come by today, but the Eagles are 5-1 this season when McCoy averages four or more yards per carry. Let’s make it 6-1 and push it to three straight games in a row over the century mark.

The Jeremy Maclin-Richard Sherman matchup gets an honorable mention and warrants watching as well obviously. I don’t expect Maclin to go for 150+ yards like he has three time prior this season, but he should be able to hold his own.

There you have it, folks. Seventy, one, 63, 20, four, and hopefully double digit wins and playing for a second consecutive NFC East title next Sunday night.

Fist pump away, Chip.

Fist Pump GIF

#BirdDay Statement and Sole Possession of First Haiku

That was awesome.

What a gameplan by Chip Kelly and Billy Davis. What an opening drive. What a game.

Aside from what turned out to be a harmless LeSean McCoy fumble in the third quarter, the Eagles just dominated their NFC East rival in their house for all of the nation to see.

Mark Sanchez exorcised his demons of Thanksgiving past and outplayed Tony Romo, who admittedly entered today having a terrific year.

McCoy more than doubled DeMarco Murray’s output on the ground, as the Cowboys running back was held to a season low 73 rushing yards.

Jeremy Maclin at one point had more receiving yards than the entire Cowboys team and outperformed Dez Bryant.

Chip Kelly was miles ahead of Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli throughout the afternoon.

We can nitpick and point at the Eagles red zone struggles. That is a legitimate concern, and the attempted fade pass to Riley Cooper seemed like a real odd call towards the end of the first half, but honestly, I’m too excited right now to get into that.

The Eagles are now 3-0 in the division while Dallas is 2-2. As I wrote earlier this morning, today would not decide the division, but the Eagles now sit in a prime position to repeat as NFC East champs. A win two and a half weeks from now at Lincoln Financial Field, where they are 6-0 this season, against the Cowboys, would just about clinch things.

There is more I want to write, and if time permits, I will dive into some deeper and more analytical things tomorrow and Saturday, but we’ll worry about that in a little while.

Happy Thanksgiving, Philadelphia, let’s hit the haiku.

Bird Day in Big D 

Sole possession of first place

Tasty Cowboys tears 

Eagles Crush the Titans Haiku

That did not quite have the euphoric feeling that the Week 16 contest against the Bears brought last season, but for a 1 p.m. kick against a bad AFC team, it was pretty good.

After what has been mostly a miserable rookie year, Josh Huff took the opening kickoff to the house, and while the Titans — with a little help from the officials — hung around for a half, the Eagles never looked back, leading by at least six points from start to finish.

Watching a game live doesn’t lend to the best analysis, and quite honestly, I’m not sure a ton can be learned from what transpired today. In many ways, it was another case of the Eagles beating up on a bad team before they get tested by a better one in a few days.

Give the birds credit for bringing it though more or less from start to finish. It would have been easy to overlook and be unprepared for this game, a bad characteristic of Andy Reid coached teams that led to some of the miserable recent history against the Titans, but aside from two ill-advised interceptions by Mark Sanchez, the Eagles played a mostly mistake free 60 minutes of football.

LeSean McCoy had one of his best games of the season, and Jordan Matthews continued his strong rapport with Sanchez. Cody Parkey’s streak of 17 consecutive made field goals ended, but he quickly started a new one with three second half kicks.

The secondary and linebackers had a few too many breakdowns in coverage but held Zach Mettenberger to a 51.2 completion percentage. Connor Barwin and Trent Cole balled out.

Mychal Kendricks is really good. Marcus Smith is really bad.

The biggest positive of the day had to be getting the running game going as McCoy and Darren Sproles both scored touchdowns and more importantly averaged more than four yards per carry. Whichever team runs the ball more effectively could very well be the key factor in Thursday’s showdown in Dallas, and McCoy heading into that tilt feeling good can only help.

Sanchez still requires a ‘wait and let’s see him play against better teams and defenses’ approach. His accuracy was improved, but he seems a lot more comfortable throwing on the run than standing in the pocket and delivering good passes. His two interceptions were worse than most of the picks thrown by Nick Foles, and this brings his total to six in less than four games.

Sanchez is certainly good enough to beat bad teams, but the Eagles only face two more bad teams on their schedule between the Redskins and Giants. To get the birds to where they want to be, he’ll need to beat the Cowboys at least once and the Seahawks.

Elements of Thursday scare me. Tony Romo against Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher really scares me. The game looks a lot more daunting than I anticipated before the season, but Dallas certainly looks beatable tonight so far.

Let’s hit the haiku, keep rooting for the Giants, and hopefully have sole possession of first place by midnight.

Huff Daddy rises

Jordan Matthews shines again

Ten straight at the Linc

Sole Possession of First Place Haiku

I thought it would be difficult to get weirder than Eagles-Cardinals last Sunday, but this came real close between the injuries, interceptions, and penalties.

Thankfully this game had a different end result. The Eagles are back in the win column and once again have sole possession of first place in the NFC East. It may have come with a price though — a price that cannot yet be measured.

A determination will not be made there until we hear about Nicky Foles and the extent of his shoulder injury. A lot of Foles haters wanted to see Mark Sanchez play. The results were uneven with a few beautiful throws and some inexplicable ones. Sound familiar?

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 4.02.20 PM

Sanchez looked pretty incompetent at times, but he won, and made a big throw in the fourth quarter to do it (bless you Jeremy Maclin). I give Foles credit for doing those things, so I have to extend the same sentiment toward Sanchez.

Still, some of the bad was really bad, and I wouldn’t be too comfortable with Sanchez having to quarterback this team for an extended period of time.

Thankfully either quarterback will have the services of Darren Sproles, Jason Kelce, and Evan Mathis, but the defense may have lost its leader in DeMeco Ryans on a fluke play that had me flashing back to NaVorro Bowman in the NFC Championship game last season.

They survived no Kendricks for a few weeks, but depth at inside linebacker is one of the biggest issues on this team and has been for some time.

The win feels good, but this will be a few days filled with uncertainty as a Monday Night date with the Panthers looms. Let’s try to enjoy being in first place again and hit the haiku as we hold our breath for injury updates:

Awful injuries

But Maclin ain’t one of them

Get well soon Nicky